Every four years, planet Earth collectively salivates at the opportunity to guzzle the World Cup game by game, experiencing the worldwide party that is futbol.
Surely you remember two summers ago, when boisterous crowds filled the district with red, white and blue, while jumping to the chants of, “I believe that we will win!” And the pandemonium when we did.
But while casual soccer fans are counting their fingers to Russia 2018, futbol fanatics know we are just days away from kicking off an amazing summer of soccer, as the two best soccer regions in the world compete for continental supremacy.
The UEFA Euro 2016 from June 10 to July 10 will showcase 22 of the world’s top 30 nations, according to the current FIFA world rankings. The qualification for this tournament was so highly contested that international mainstays Denmark and the Netherlands failed to make the 24-team field.
The French hosts will undoubtedly be fueled by tributes to the lives taken in last year’s Paris attacks, and will be led by two emerging young superstars in Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann.
The reigning World Cup champions, Germany, are looking to continue their international dominance, while England will hope to finally find the right combination of experience and athleticism to reemerge on the international scene.
Perennial powerhouses Spain, Portugal and Italy have landed in difficult groups full of potential spoilers, and Belgium, Sweden and Croatia, although lacking the same team depth and historical success, will look to ride their big name superstars through the knockout rounds.
Where to Catch Euro Games
With the Republic of Ireland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland all in action, there are many great opportunities to enjoy pub football at its finest. Head to Fado Irish Pub in Chinatown and order the most traditionally Irish items on the menu to go along with your favorite pint. Enjoy the feel of a day in Dublin while watching the United Kingdom’s best teams duke it out on the European stage.
Virginians can enjoy a similar atmosphere at Ireland’s Four Courts in Arlington, just across the street from historic soccer pub Summers Restaurant. Fans can jump from one to the other for a great day of soccer. Ideal pub matches are England vs. Wales on June 16, and the Republic of Ireland vs. Italy on June 22.
German fans should check out Biergarten Haus
on H Street and enjoy the patio televisions, traditional Bavarian fare and boot-shaped pints. Bring or make friends, and celebrate a German goal with a four-person shot ski.
The Copa America Centenario
The Copa America Centenario is the world’s oldest international soccer competition, and will be celebrating its 100th anniversary this summer by doing something it has never done before: playing the games in the U.S.
From June 3-26, classic South American futbol will take 10 American cities by storm, playing in historic stadiums like Soldier Field, Gillette (previously Foxboro) and the Rose Bowl. In addition to the 10 South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) teams, the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) will add six teams to create the largest field in the tournament’s history.
Whereas the Euro Cup features rigid team structure and intense tactical battles, the Copa brings a free-flowing, fast-paced brand of the game that fans can’t help but love, along with the divine creativity of players like Lionel Messi, Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior, Luis Suarez and Alexis Sanchez. These four players are fully expected to lead their respective teams (Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and defending champions Chile) to the semi-finals, but there is certainly no guarantee they will, as eight of the 10 South American nations have previously won the tournament.
For the Americans, the challenge will certainly be difficult, but the same was said of the “group of death” they met head on in Brazil two years ago. They kick off the entire tournament on June 3 with a massive match against Colombia, the third-ranked team in the world, according to FIFA.
The winner of this match has an excellent chance of advancing, but a loss could be crushing, as the Costa Ricans and Paraguayans both present problems for an American side that has underachieved as of late.
While no CONCACAF team has ever won the tournament, perhaps the unprecedented home field advantage could help the Americans break through and make world soccer history.
Where to Catch Copa America Games
The tournament will not feature any games in DC, but fans hoping to catch the action live can see Uruguay vs. Venezuela on June 9 and U.S. vs. Paraguay on June 11 in Philadelphia, or the quarterfinals and finals at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. For those staying local, check out Lucky Bar in Dupont, Johnny Pistolas on 18th Street or Blaguard in Adams Morgan.
Bar photos: Courtesy of respective bars
Bill Hamid photos: Tony Quinn, D.C. United